Building the next generation of business entrepreneurs ensures new ideas make it to market, new jobs are created and local economies are boosted. Cherokee Nation plays a huge part in those endeavors, right here at home. Our sovereign government helps tribal citizens foster their business ideas and launch new business throughout our 14-county jurisdiction.
Having owned my own small business for more than 45 years, I can tell you it has sustained my family, created jobs and generated revenue in my hometown of Tahlequah. I strongly believe in Native business development and entrepreneurship because I know firsthand the great benefit they bring our families, our communities and our tribes.
Oklahoma consistently ranks among the top U.S. states for entrepreneurial activity, as well as entrepreneurs per capita. Entrepreneurship is clearly crucial to Oklahoma’s economy, especially in rural areas. Entrepreneurs are also the future of Indian Country’s economy. That is why we offer financial support though a variety of loans, as well as technical assistance and training, to help business owners start and grow their companies.
Since 2011, the Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center has issued more than $13.5 million in small-business loans. With those dollars, more than 1,250 jobs were created within our tribal jurisdiction. Close to 300 Native-owned businesses were launched, expanded or stabilized. Our tribal resources are allowing these unique business ideas to bloom in full.
The business world is driven by those willing to take a risk and turn their dreams into reality. That includes these Cherokee Nation citizens, who have all worked with our Small Business Assistance Center:
• Richard Roberts created Rocking R Farms in Tahlequah. With a small-business loan from Cherokee Nation, he was able to convert a former Christmas tree farm into a multiseasonal tourism operation, including a pumpkin patch and corn maze tours.
• With guidance from our SBAC, Courtney Hart was able to add staff, offer new services and move her Tahlequah business, Cort Spa, to a more spacious site.
• In Coweta, Andrea Childress hired new staff and grew her business, Express Lawn Care.
• Lisa Galli expanded her business, Galli Plumbing, in Tulsa. Joining her sons in a family-operated business, she has steadily built a base of commercial and residential clients.
• Matt Jones added to his business, Stonebridge Garden Center, in Claremore. The greenhouse expanded its retail and service operations.
Cherokee Nation remains committed to collaboration with state agencies like i2E, which last year launched GrowOK, a program designed to assist Native American entrepreneurs in identifying new markets and new customers. Small businesses are our lifeline and represent a bright future for the 38 federally recognized tribes that are located in this state.
Something else to consider: Many small-business owners get their start and find their passion in college.
That is why it is more important than ever to invest in higher education and courses that encourage creativity, business skills and teamwork.
Our citizens must see what is possible in order to create and launch the next great idea. We are investing in inspiration, as well as aspiration.
To learn more about entrepreneurship opportunities for tribal citizens, contact the Cherokee Nation Small Business Small Business Assistance Center at 918-453-5536 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.